Sunday, October 09, 2011

Homecoming Excess (OR "Why I would just as soon cancel the whole event")

Last night, I helped to cap off the 2011 Fall Spirit Week with the Homecoming Dance. We had a DJ, decorations, various casino games (run by brother Jesuits), and a photo booth. Our students purchased arrived in suit jackets and ties, accompanied by elegantly dressed young women who wore fresh corsages, nicely done hair, and obviously new dresses. We opened our doors at 8:00 and by 8:15, party bus after party bus arrived, dropping their passengers at our door. The music was wonderful, the lights were dim, the stage was set for what, to my mind, should have been a great evening.

And then I noticed party bus after party bus returning to the door and students boarding it once again. In some cases, students were at the dance for less than thirty minutes before boarding the party bus to take them around the city.

As someone who put a lot of thought into this dance, who put out a tremendous amount of money to help ensure that students had a really enjoyable evening, this really bothered me. So I did what I normally do when I get angry: I brood. As I brooded last night, here are some things that hit me.

My Expenses to run the 2011 Homecoming:

Homecoming Shirts: $3875
DJ: $600
Photo Booth: $825
Casino Games: $450
Decorations: $250
Chaperones: $750
Dinner for Chaperones: $230

Total: $6980. (So, for the sake of even numbers, let's just say $7000)


Now, I totally own that I probably could have skimped on some things. Yet, it seemed to me wise to try to offer things for students to do to encourage them to stay at the dance, to be with their friends and enjoy an evening together.

I charged each student $20.00 for admission. The cost of admission included one t-shirt, two tickets, free photos from the photo booth, casino games, decorations, and dancing.

So I went into the dance knowing that this was a pretty expensive affair to run. Certainly it is nothing like Senior Prom, but $7,000 is still no small amount of money.

Add to this the amount of money spent by the students on things like corsages, boutonnieres, hair, dresses, and then the party bus.

I think the most stomach-churning part of last night was watching students roll up in these enormous "party buses." Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors would spill out of these rolling shrines to material excess. I heard from one student that, in his group, it cost each student $80.00 to pay for transportation. That seems like an enormous, and excessive, amount of money to shell out on something as insignificant as a Homecoming dance.

Even Chaperones can have fun!
So here's the thing: these kids (ahem, parents) pay all this money for a Party Bus and the kids feel that they should make the most of it. So rather than enjoy the dance, they go in and then leave pretty quickly so they can drive around the city in the belly of a gas guzzling bus. All to feel glamorous. All because these kids really need this.

To the parents who rented these things, I really want to say, "Are you out of your damned minds?" Your kid doesn't need a party bus to get to Homecoming. Your little freshmen or sophomore should be glad to be allowed out of the house after 10:00 pm, so either pull up in the minivan or give him the keys to the family Ford. There is no reason, however, to rent a party bus or a limo to take a kid to a dance (we have no paparazzi outside). We're in the middle of an economic downturn and the profligacy of last night's event was just stunning.

If I were to run another homecoming, I think I'd hire my DJ, assemble my chaperones, and then let the Student Body know that we would have no t-shirts and that the dance would not be a formal. I would then write a $5,000 check and give it to a school that needed the money for tuition assistance and run just a really fun regular dance for the kids. Not a formal, mind you, but a regular old dance where kids wear what they want and act like fools. I'd rather strip away all the pretense and let them be kids than to watch the displays of excess I saw roll in, and out, of our parking lot last night.

This is, truth to tell, a bit of venting. I'm still sick with a nagging cold and I suspect I'm being a crank. But I'd love to hear people's thoughts on the "party bus" mentality and the excesses of these formal dances, especially from parents' perspectives. I can see some merit in the idea of the party bus but I wonder if parents sometimes aren't entrusting to a company a job they should be doing for themselves...



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